Claes Oldenburg’s audacious, witty, and profound depictions of everyday objects have earned him a reputation as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. This exhibition examines the beginnings of Oldenburg’s extraordinary career with an in-depth look at his first two major bodies of work: The Street (1960) and The Store (1961–64). During this intensely productive period Oldenburg redefined the relationship between painting and sculpture and between subject and form. The Street comprises objects made from cardboard, burlap, and newspaper that together create an immersive panorama of a gritty and bustling city. The Store features brightly painted sculptures and sculptural reliefs shaped to evoke commercial products and comestibles. In The Store, cigarettes, lingerie, and hamburgers all become viable subjects for art.
On view in The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium are Oldenburg’s Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing. Created in the 1970s, these two architectural structures present careful arrangements of readymade objects alongside various tests and experiments from Oldenburg’s studio. Mouse Museum and Ray Gun Wing propose equivalence between collecting and creating, while dissolving the distinction between everyday items and museum treasures.